When planners begin the process of vetting venues for their clients, they’re not just looking for a good meeting or group experience.
We could tell you all the reasons why you should bring your group to the track for your next meeting or group event space, they are searching for an experience.
And the BMW Performance Center certainly has the X factor (and the X Models …) when it comes to the ultimate event, but we thought we’d have our Chief Driving Instructor, Matt Mullins, share more from the race floor.
Interview with Matt Mullins, BMW Performance Center’s Chief Driving Instructor
Q: Tell us a little about you! How did you become the chief driving instructor for the BMW Performance Center?
A: I’ve loved BMW cars since I was kid. I was fascinated by the vehicles… the whole car culture really. I began my professional career at 23 racing Formula cars and went on to become chief instructor for a NASCAR racing school. I was also a SAG stunt driver in a few movies… one being Talladega Nights (with Will Ferrell). Ever heard of it? [laughing]. I ended up visiting the BMW Performance Center in 2001 and never left! They invited me onto the team that day and I’ve now been Chief Instructor for 10 years. It gives a new meaning to “living the dream” and it’s truly the best job I’ve ever had.
Q: What are your top 3 goals when putting together a group event?
A: This is a “Bucket-List” kind of experience for most folks and we want to make it awesome for everyone. So, we offer a wide range of driving activities for all skill levels. If I had to sum it up, I’d say my top 3 are: 1) Make it safe. 2) Make it fun and entertaining 3) Make it educational.
Q: How does a driving event facilitate team building and camaraderie?
A: When you’re in the car with someone driving at high rates of speed, you gain trust pretty quickly! [laughing] The BMW Performance Center is a way more inclusive activity than say, a round of golf. Every person that comes here drives a car. We’re all in it together. And you’ll use the skills you learn both on and off the track. I see people interacting on the track and I get to watch how the program breaks down barriers and improves communication within the group. Honestly, people just really enjoy it and they really bond with their group. A lot of times, they are surprised at who they connect with by the end of the day. You learn a lot about a person when you’re learning how to drive in challenging conditions including accident avoidance, cornering, drifting, wet pavement, car control, braking, etc. We have so many of the same companies come out time and time again… the track offers a fresh dose of adrenaline every time and getting behind the wheel of the Ultimate Driving Machine® is just the shot they need.
Q: How do you decide which courses are best for each group?
A: We talk to the planner! Our incredible sales team conducts a needs assessment with our planner-customers to identify group size, time constraints, goals, meeting room needs, catering, requested driving events, etc. And, we really listen to what they’re asking for. We try to maximize their time at the course, while providing a number of events that inspire and educate.
Every program is customized as we design the specifics. If the company has a certain driving experience in mind, we can add more or less in. Many of our clients add courses on to their next trip out to the track, such as team-based competitive racing (against the clock for the best time), the Off-Road Experience or the Skidpad. The Off-Road Track allows drivers to experience extreme angles in the BMW X Series vehicles, splashing through water obstacles, driving over bumpy off-road trails and more. The vertical angles are literally steeper than any street in San Francisco and the visual sensation is amazing. Drivers often say, “I didn’t know a car could do that!” And, you should hear the hilarious smack-talk before and after the timed races!
Q: What do participants tell you they enjoy most about their driving experience?
A: They love driving these amazing cars fast. They love the performance part. They love the hot lap at the end. And they love doing something that really takes it to the next level. Most people don’t know that a car can perform like this. They’re often surprised they had so much fun doing something they weren’t quite sure about before the program.
Aside from the driving experience, the BMW Performance Center near Palm Springs, CA is set against a background of breathtaking mountain views and the building is brand new. It’s clearly inspired by the makers of BMW itself with a modern German design. The building features a gourmet café with its own private chef. Event attendees really love the dining experience and its premier dining facility. The track view while eating on the balcony is a site to be seen. There’s also a coffee bar and a gift shop with exclusive merchandise. And the meeting rooms (there are 3 of them on site) come fully equipped with AV, complimentary Wi-Fi, and crisp air conditioning. In the end, the sentiment goes from “I have to do this for work” to “When can I come back?” And planners tell me all the time that they need to bring more of their groups out the track.
Q: What would a typical day at the track look like if I wanted to host my company’s annual meeting in one of the event spaces, while also doing a driving school, and serving lunch? Let’s say, for 50 people.
A: As I mentioned before, everything is customizable. They can hold their meetings in the morning and drive in the afternoon or vice versa. Our sales team will work with them on every detail. We’re really a one-stop-shop for an unparalleled event.
To provide a sample flow:
The center is located in Thermal, CA, a short drive from the heart of Palm Springs. Your group will watch the desert scenery come to life in the morning light on the drive out.
We offer varied start times that work for your group and can include a continental breakfast and the coffee bar, or a full hot breakfast. Your meeting room will be set up with A/V and ready for your meeting.
12-1pm – Lunch can be serviced inside, outside on the patio, or even at track-level. You will be served a world-class menu with custom catering options like salmon risotto, kale salad, a dessert bar, and refreshments, to name a few.
1pm – Reunite in the classroom for a quick safety briefing and instructor Chalk Talk. The BMW Certified Instructor will explain the driving activities and get your group ready for an exciting afternoon.
1:30-4pm – Planners can design the day with options like the Performance Drive (most popular) where your group will drive different models to feel the various driving styles of each model) and timed laps. Your client will get to drive cars that people only dream about driving. Those with a more competitive side can do the timed autocross. To learn how to manage momentum on a slick surface, participants can do the “Rat Race” using the skidpad, add another level of competition with bracket competition, or try the Off-Road Track in an X Series car. Most people don’t know a car can perform like this and it’s neat to see their surprise. We can also get out on the “big racetrack” for a lead/follow to get a feel for what it’s like to be an actual racecar driver.
We’ll wrap the day up with hot laps for a final adrenaline rush. Tires screech and rubber burns as the instructors show off their professional driving skills. It’s not for the faint of heart.
4:30 pm – Enjoy a light cocktail reception trackside while your driving instructor hands out the awards for the day (giving bragging rights to the recipients!) and head back to downtown Palm Springs for dinner.
Q: Why do people get so excited when they get behind the wheel of a BMW during a corporate or group event?
A: Because driving a car fast is EXHILARATING. It’s really one of the most awesome things you can do. Most people feel a primal need to go fast in a car whether they know it or not. It’s probably because most people just don’t have access to high-performance vehicles; they just don’t know what a car like this can really do. It’s a one-of-a-kind experience and I think everyone should experience it at least once.
It actually gives participants the confidence and ability to drive their car BETTER on the road.
Planners always tell us, “when we book an event with you guys, we always know that everyone is coming.” The reason companies and planners love it is because they look like rock stars. It makes their job easy.
What to Keep in Mind When Planning Your Trip to the BMW Performance Center
The center offers 3 luxuriously designed and highly functional on-site meeting rooms equipped with advanced AV systems, complimentary Wi-Fi, and other conveniences to meet the various needs of any size group. The facility has its own on-site chef and a premier dining facility that boasts the most exclusive views of this world-class automotive track. The BMW Performance Center can customize events to satisfy the needs of practically any meeting or private group scenario.
Visited the center before? Try something new! There is something for every driver ranging from fast action Performance Drives, a 2-hour experience to full 1- and 2-day adult or teen Car Control Schools. For the more skilled driver there are M Schools that hone the skills of the driving enthusiast. The center offers a premier skidpad allowing drivers to feel oversteer and understeer simulating hydroplaning or driving on black ice and provides the opportunity to learn how to handle those situations. The skidpad also provides advanced drivers with the thrilling experience of drifting. The tight performance track offers plenty of opportunity to learn how to control a vehicle at various speeds and cornering situations. Drivers can definitely satisfy their need for speed and excitement on one of the four tracks and experience driving scenarios they’ve only ever seen in the movies.
For more information, or to book your event, visit our website or call 888-345-4269.